What’s Your Sport HQ (Hydration Quotient)? Think You Know? Maybe Not.

What’s Your Sport?

Every athlete has a different training regimen. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist, a CrossFit enthusiast, or play a team sport like soccer or football, you likely know how important nutrition and hydration are to your performance. Your trainers and your own research tell you how taking care of your insides will directly impact how you perform in any sport. But what does that actually mean?

We’ve talked to experts and scoured the Internet to give every athlete the information they can use today to perform better tomorrow. We are dedicating the month of February to educating athletes about nutrition, particularly around hydration. Each blog will feature a popular sport where hydration plays a key role in performance. Check us out regularly so you can be sure to find your sport and see if you’re doing all you need to do to perform at your best.

In the meantime, let’s talk about general hydration and why it’s so important. Hydration does lots of things for our bodies, not the least of which is quench a thirst. Have you ever wondered what all that fluid really does to make you feel and perform better?

What’s The Big Deal about Hydration?

One of the key components of hydration, particularly for high-performance athletes who exercise at higher intensities, is its ability to regulate the body’s temperature. Body water loss through sweat is the body’s way of cooling itself. As an athlete moves and exerts energy, muscles heat up consume water while at the same time, the body releases sweat that cools the skin as it evaporates. This is a one-two punch for a proper hydration balance.

Of course, the type of activity, the climate, and the clothing worn by the athlete will impact how much sweat the athlete produces, but studies have shown it is not uncommon for athletes to lose up to 10 percent of their body weight in sweat loss. If sweat loss is not compensated for with fluid intake, especially during vigorous physical activity, dehydration can quickly set in with increases in core body temperature. The balance is disrupted, as are electrolytes and plasma volume. When this occurs, sweating may slow down or even cease which leads to overheating and even heat stroke.

This is but one side effect of dehydration on the body. Beyond physical performance, cognitive performance can suffer. Other functions that depend greatly on hydration are gastrointestinal, kidney, and heart. Dehydration can also cause headaches and impact chronic diseases. When it comes to athletic performance, here’s what a few experts have to say:

According to familydoctor.com -

“Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It also helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level. You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more serious symptoms.”

The American Heart Association says -

“Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles work efficiently.”

The American Council on Exercise says -

“Optimal performance for any client is dependent on more than just training. It’s about an expertly designed nutrition plan, rest and adequate hydration, all of which work together to help the body run most effectively. Hydration, in particular, can be overlooked and undervalued by clients as part of a good training program. When this happens, clients risk becoming dehydrated. This dehydration can lead to injuries, heat illness and even hyponatremia, an excessive loss of sodium and imbalance of electrolytes. Dehydration can also make exercise seem more difficult, because of the increased strain placed on the body.”

And the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has this to say about dehydration:

“A dehydrated athlete has a decreased volume of blood circulating through the body, and consequently:

  • The amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat decreases
  • Exercising muscles do not receive enough oxygen
  • Exhaustion sets in and the athlete’s performance suffers
  • By-products of exercises are not flushed out of the body as regularly as they should be

Unanswered Questions

Clearly, hydration is a big deal for anyone, especially for athletes and those who are striving to be one. If you’re a serious athlete, you understand and have likely seen the effects of improper hydration. As I look through these and many other websites, however, there are still common questions many athletes are still asking:

  • How much water should I drink?
  • What types of fluid count towards hydration?
  • Do foods count towards hydration and if so, which ones?
  • When do I hydrate?
  • How do I easily keep track of hydration?

Many athletes have coaches or trainers who are supposed to advise their clients/players on nutrition and hydration needs. They depend on these experts to educate them and trust they are getting the best advice. Few athletes will question their coaches and trainers but there might be a reason to after all.

A researcher from the Department of Rehabilitation at the University of South Australia, “Given the vast amount of information to guide athletes in maintaining an optimum state of hydration to prevent heat-related injuries, there is limited evidence regarding the utilization of information in actual and practical scenario...There is still limited knowledge on proper hydration amongst coaches and athletes. Knowledge regarding ways to assess fluid levels, hydration status and fluid loss relevant to hydration knowledge are very limited.”

She goes on to recommend athletes and coaches both need more education and when they get it, they need to properly implement what they’ve learned. It’s easy to focus more on the training regimen and competitions than hydration but the fact that as little as a 2.5 percent loss in sweat can diminish performance by up to 45 percent is significant. Simply put, hydration directly impacts performance. Ignoring it isn’t an option if an athlete wants to optimize their performance.

Hydration Is A Delicate Balance

No matter your current athletic ability, it’s worth your time to truly understand hydration. Finding the balance between too little and too much is a science but it can be better understood by learning more about your body and your personal hydration needs. No body is the same. Your activity, activity intensity, activity duration, climate, clothing and other factors must be considered along with your sweat rate, heart rate, body weight, age, and gender. It’s a lot of information but with knowledge comes power.

Whether you’re an athlete, a coach, a trainer, or simply want to know more about hydration, you’ve come to the right place. It’s time we put some science and technology to this hydration thing so we don’t have to think so hard.

We look forward to presenting sport-specific information to help educate you so you can make the best decisions for your body. Our goal is to help you understand hydration as much as you know about your training regimen and sport. Why? Because we know how much better you can train and perform when you do.

Tags: hydrate smarter, hydration, peak performance, water